Juan Williams is a long-time columnist and commentator, who has been at the Washington Post (where he has an excellent column today) for years, as well as NPR and FoxNews. He has also written several books, the latest of which was reviewed in The Washington Post yesterday, by one Peniel E. Joseph.
Anyone who's followed the Washington media for any length of time over the past 20 years knows who Juan Williams is. And he knows that Williams is not a conservative. But the Washington Post, which has employed him and run hundreds of his columns, went out and found someone to savage his latest book. From the left.
Mr. Joseph, who is a teacher of "Africana Studies" at Stony Brook University, is apparently not interested in any discussion of black issues in America that isn't focused on white racism. The idea that blacks in America need to take any responsibility for their condition is apparently "simplistic."
In Cosby's speeches and Williams's book, fleeting acknowledgments of racism are trumped by simplistic, at times repetitive lectures cautioning blacks to look at their own shortcomings before blaming anyone else.
Beyond Williams's polemics lies a more complex story about the political economy of racism whose effects on poor neighborhoods elude those who romanticize ghetto and "gangsta" culture. His discussions of the "stop snitching" campaigns that discourage cooperation with police and Cosby's outrage over the epidemic use of the "N" word are worthy of serious debate. But that would require the kind of rich analysis, penetrating insight and layered narrative that Enough lacks, as well as a hard look at the impacts of unemployment, racial profiling, police brutality and other features of modern-day racism, along with the lingering effects of slavery and Jim Crow, which continue to disfigure the lives of blacks and distort the shape of American democracy.
He obviously has a right to his opinion, but can we concede that it's not a particularly "mainstream" or "centrist" position?
The killer, though, is this gem:
Enough concludes with a flurry of righteous condescension, preaching that youngsters can best avoid poverty by finishing high school, getting a job and postponing marriage and child-bearing until at least 21.
In my world, no one would ever call it "condescending" to suggest that finishing school, getting a job and waiting until 21 to get married and have children was the path to success. Apparently, that is inappropriately judgmental advice in certain circles. Circles that the Washington Post is willing to go to for book reviews...